Monday, 25 June 2012

5th birthday

 L-R: Taika, Torvi, Keksi, Taito, Koda, Diesel, Karhu

Wow, 5 years already since Neka and I had our first litter of puppies.  On the 13th of June we wished very happy birthdays to Kultainen (aka Koda), Taika, Pikkukarhu (aka Karhu, aka Mr K), Seppo (aka Diesel), Taito, Keksi and Tuuri (aka Torvi).  Although, I have to say that although the owners of those fabulous first Infindigo dogs are saying "five, already!?" to tell you the truth, I'm saying "only five!?"  Because a lot has happened to me and and my dogs in those 5 years - that was even before the birth of the blog.  Eons ago, surely!  There have been 4 more litters since then, for example.  27 more puppies.

But, back in the day, here's how cute that first litter were.  In these photos they are 5-6 weeks old.

Finnish word meaning "Golden"
Owned by the Golden family
Pet name "Koda"

Finnish word meaning "Magic" or "Spell"
Owned by the Wilson family where she now lives with her own daughter, Minna

2 Finnish words stuck together, meaning "Little" & "Bear"
Owned by Scott & Wendy Gilmour where he now features as "Mr K" in Wendy's very successful fashion & lifestyle blog, Thankfifi
Pet name also "Karhu"

Blacksmith from the Finnish Kalevala
Owned by the Groves family
Pet name "Diesel"

Finnish name meaning "skill" or "expertise"
Owned by the McCarthy family

Finnish word meaning "biscuit"
Owned by Daniel Spencer & Jim McGinley
She now lives with her adopted brother Ismo and her own son, Kuura

Finnish word meaning "luck"
Owned by the Giles family
Pet name Torvi, finnish word meaning "nose"

And if you'd like to see how cute they are at 5 years, you can visit their individual pages by clicking on their names here

Stay tuned - as soon as I get my photos sorted I'll post some from our birthday walk / mini-reunion.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

book review - the perfect puppy *

When I'm getting ready to send some puppies off into the world with their new families, I always recommend a few books to get people going with the training and socialisation.  Near the top of my list is this book.

The Perfect Puppy *


Author: Gwen Bailey
Publisher: Hamlyn, London, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-600-61722-8
Pages: 208
Price: £12.99

Classic Quote

“Planning in advance and getting things right first time around are quicker, in the long run, than having to sort out problems later.”

About the Author

Gwen Bailey is a canine behaviourist and founder of Puppy School, based in Oxfordshire. The first edition of this book, published in 1995, was the UK’s best-selling puppy book until the publication of this, the second edition.

Structure of the Book

The book is divided into 16 chapters with sections at the end for further reading, a suggested socialisation programme, and a few contact addresses such as the Kennel Club and the author’s own Puppy School. The chapters cover the full range of puppy ownership:
Chapter 1 - The raw material
Chapter 2 - A puppy’s view of the world
Chapter 3 - The new family
Chapter 4 - Developmental stages
Chapter 5 - Life with a new puppy
Chapter 6 - Socialization
Chapter 7 - House training
Chapter 8 - Behaviour control and leadership
Chapter 9 - Toys and games
Chapter 10 - Preventing biting and aggression
Chapter 11 - Chewing
Chapter 12 - Handling and grooming
Chapter 13 - Good manners
Chapter 14 - Learning to be alone
Chapter 15 - Training your puppy
Chapter 16 - Adolescence and beyond

What is Great About This Book

This is possibly the best illustrated puppy book I’ve ever seen. There are large, full-colour photos on just about every page and each photo shows the topic being discussed. This is particularly useful in the sections on body language in chapters 2 and 10 where the photos clearly show what a “shy” puppy looks like and what “stiff tail” means when ”nervous” dogs are greeting each other.

The book definitely covers everything you need to know about training your puppy and it doesn’t gloss over some of the more challenging topics such as being the pack leader and controlling the behaviour of more ambitious puppies who try to take charge. This is the major difference between this edition and the original book. Chapter 10 on preventing biting and aggression is particularly good, explaining not only how to deal with puppy biting but also why the puppy bites in the first place and how aggression can develop, hence how to avoid it. This chapter also covers dominance and food or toy guarding.

The best thing about this book is that at every stage the author is thinking about how the puppy will fit into the family unit, especially including children. There is not one discrete part of the book labelled ‘puppies and children’, rather this relationship is woven throughout each topic, from the best way to introduce the puppy to children to the appropriate (and inappropriate) way for them to play together.

What’s Not So Great

There’s very little I have to criticise in this book. The weaknesses in the original edition have been addressed in this new edition, and it really does cover the whole puppy experience from how to choose a puppy to how to survive the adolescent phase that comes at the end of puppyhood.

The only thing I would say is that although it’s well written and divided into sensible chapters and sections, the layout is entirely conversational, flowing paragraph by paragraph. I prefer the style that includes at least some lists of things to do, and in what order, rather than endless descriptive text. This layout and writing style does make it somewhat difficult to browse the book or pick it up and dip in. It is designed to be read cover to cover or not at all. Having said that, there is an index at the back to aid navigation.

Worth Reading?

Yes, especially if you like looking at lots of photos of cute puppies. I judge all puppy books against Dunbar’s Before and After Getting Your Puppy, which to me is the ultimate. I always say that if you’re going to have only one puppy book, then that is the one to have. However, I also think that it’s helpful to read at least two or three for the different styles and approaches that may appeal to different individuals and work with individual puppies. After all, the more varying ways you have to come at a problem, the more likely you are to achieve a solution. While it does not surpass Dunbar’s book, The Perfect Puppy does sit alongside it very nicely.

Round Up:  Beautifully illustrated how-to book covering the whole puppy experience
Best For:  Everyone, especially families with children
Woofs:  4/5
 * This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for Lappy Tails, the newsletter of the Southern Finnish Lapphund Society.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that you can follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, 11 June 2012

a leading question

For a long time now I have been meaning to write a post about dog leads.  In fact, I meant to do it before all the owners of the Riemu gang had already been out and about with their new puppies.  And I certainly intended to do it before they had already bought 4 or 14 new leads.  Yes, I said 14.  Maybe that's just me, though.

One of the reasons I am only just getting around to it is because the topic of dog leads is a big one.  Huge.  First there is the choice of material - fabric, nylon, leather, something else.  Then there are choices of colour, length, width, round or flat, different types of clasp, or no clasp at all.  Some will have matching collars, some will not.  The permutations are quite endless, but over time you will likely develop your own personal favorites or, like me, you will find different leads useful for different purposes.

Here are a few from my own personal collection - some are new but most are older or much older than new, as you will see, and they are in varying cosmetic states.

First up, these leads are the sort of thing that work well with a brand new puppy.  They are made of woven fabric so they are soft on your hands, not too heavy for the puppy to drag around by its neck, and will last as a puppy lead for many weeks.  They come flat, as shown, or round.  After the puppy grows out of this sort of lead, it's also very handy as a show lead, if you are so inclined.

Tuuli's puppy lead (left), brand unknown, kindly supplied by her breeder in Sweden.*

Neka's show lead (right), brand unknown, purchased from a stall at a show many years ago.*

Next up is a selection of leads I have acquired over the years.  The first 2 are quite short in length, the 3rd is one of my favorite leads and a daily go-to.  It's long, soft and extremely versatile and it has a convenient metal ring through the handle that I use to clip the lead around my neck when the dogs are running free.  I have also been known to clip two of them together, end-on-end.  I bought it at a stall at the Ladies Kennel Club show in 2006 and I have it in 2 colours.  I so wish I could remember who supplied it because I would like several more of them.

Lead 1 - provenance unknown

Lead 2 - brand unknown, purchased from Pets Corner pet shop with matching collar

Lead 3 - see above

Do you recognise this lead?  If you do, get in touch!

Another of my favorite and most versatile leads is this one, a double-ended "Softex" lead purchased from Mekuti.  Let me say, it wasn't cheap as dog leads go.  However, it is extremely useful and, as the name implies, it's easy on the hands.

It has a trigger hook clasp on each end and several metal rings along its length for adjusting the style and length you prefer.

Doubled up to its shortest version

Double-ended with one large clasp and one small

Can be used like a traditional straight lead with loop handle.

It's most useful variation, though, and the reason I bought it in the first place, is as a training lead to stop young (or older...) dogs pulling on their lead.  Here is baby Tuuli learning to walk nicely on her lead with the Mekuti attached to her collar and body harness.  With a very strong and stubborn puller I would attach one end to the body harness and the other to a head collar. 

In additon to leads with clasps, you can also get what is known as a slip lead.  This is a kind of all-in-one collar and lead where the lead attaches to itself using a ring that it slips easily through (hence the name).  When the dog is walking calmly, not pulling, the smooth lead slips through the ring to create a loose collar.  When the dog pulls, the leads slips back to pull the collar tight.  Some slip leads have a "lock" that will control the amount the collar will open when slack.

As a rule, I don't recommend slip leads for normal use.  To operate correctly, the dog needs to walk on only one side of you so that the lead sits on top of the dog's neck with the ring end looping up from under the dog's chin.  If worn the wrong way around, the collar can simply choke the dog without the ability to slip back through the ring.  Also, there is a danger that a determined, clever dog can actually slip out of the lead altogether.  I've known one or two clever Lappies to do just that very thing.

We use this lead just for the convenience of taking the dogs out for a quick comfort break, as they don't normally wear their collars when just hanging around the house.  Rather than going through the rigamarole of buckling collars back on and then attaching leads to collars to nip quickly outside, we simply pop the slip lead over their heads and out we go.

Slip ring and "lock".

Have you heard of a training line?  Well, this is an example of a training line.  It's made by Clix and is a lightweight very long lead used for training recall and other behaviour where you need control while allowing your dog to feel he is free to do whatever he wishes.  This one is 10 metres, but they are available in different lengths.  It has a trigger hook at one end for attaching to the dog's collar and nothing at the other end, although you can get training lines with a loop handle at the end. 

The lead that everyone uses, for better or for worse, is the flexi lead.  Flexi is actually a brand name but has come to mean any of a type of spring-loaded, adjustable-length retractable lead.  They give freedom to the dog and a minimum of control to the person.  I'm both a fan and a detractor of the flexi lead.  Yes, I use them, but I'm extremely careful when I do.

This one, my favorite, is a Flexi brand.  It has a rubber handle for much better grip (customised by Keskiyo as a puppy, as you can see) and a flat tape lead.

Flexi leads are also available with a round cord lead, as shown here - don't buy that type!

These leads can be convenient, but they can also be dangerous.  Especially with a cord instead of a tape.  Especially with a strong dog on the end.  And especially with a strong herding dog on the end.  What do dogs do when they meet?  They turn round and round each other.  On a flexi lead, that turning motion can actually wrap the lead around a smaller dog's neck and when the bigger, stronger dog then runs or jumps in play, the small dog can be seriously injured or even killed. 

And what do herding dogs do when they meet people?  Frequently, they circle round them too, thus wrapping the lead around people's legs.  Like I said, it can be dangerous.  So, whatever you do, don't buy the cord flexi lead!  That cord is lethal around necks, legs, fingers, everything it touches.  The tape is a much gentler and safer construction altogether.

Finally, here is a lead of gorgeous quality, beautiful colour, appealing material and with a dose of sentimental value thrown in for good measure.  It's a rich russet leather lead, hand made with a brass trigger hook and a charming inscription.

Thank you so much to Jane & Mark Treasure for this lovely, thoughtful and completely unnecessary gift!  I love it!

* If anyone recognises the brand of any of these leads, please let me know and I will gladly give credit.  And probably buy more of them!